When we first decided to do this site, it was with senior citizens in mind in
general, and Alzheimer's families in particular. During the course of the
study, however, we found that this information is important to
everyone, or at least those of us who are mortal.
You arrive at the arrangement process at a distinct disadvantage for several reasons, among them:
Know in advance that your funeral bill will sometimes depend upon what you
drive up in, how you are dressed, and whatever financial information the
funeral director and his staff can muster on you and the deceased. Some
homes send their sales force to sales training courses wherein they study
methods of determining your financial status. Some spend hours just
learning women's accessories and what they cost. You will start
to divulge information immediately, beginning with "How many copies of the Death Certificate will you need? You'll need at least one for every life insurance policy the deceased has in force, and that speaks volumes about how much funeral you can afford.
- You probably haven't arranged a funeral before. ~ The funeral director's sales force does it daily.
- You are either in shock, if the death was sudden, or emotionally drained if it was a lingering process. ~ The funeral director, on the other hand, is calm, cool, collected, and, perhaps, calculating.
- You view the funeral as a final act of love and respect. ~ To the funeral home, it is just business.
- You have no idea what a funeral should cost. ~ The funeral director has it down to the penny, and will often get every penny he can.
- You need the peace of mind a nice, respectful funeral will bring. ~ The funeral director needs a downpayment on a new Lexus.
EXAMPLE: A widow in Houston, Texas went into a corporate-owned funeral home to arrange her late husband's funeral. She took with her some of her late husband's papers, including a life insurance policy with a face-value of $12,000. She walked out an hour later with a funeral arrangement that cost $12,000, exactly.
In The Affordable Funeral we have put every sales ploy and
scam the 700+ former employees of the funeral industry revealed
(plus some we've discovered on our own), and some of them will amaze you.
It is often a cold business, but not without the occasional good soul.
Do some investigative work, or get in touch with your local memorial
society and you may learn who these good souls are. Otherwise, you may
find yourself at the mercy of people for whom your loved one's funeral
means a vacation in Maui, rather than a final act of respect and love.
That said, consider this. The funeral director and his staff have an
often-unpleasant job. They must collect remains in every imaginable
condition, and rarely charge more for fetching in a decomposed or badly
mutilated body, no matter the weather or hour or day. They must also deal
with deaths by highly contagious diseases, not to mention dealing with often
distraught and sometimes unreasonable relatives of the deceased.
They deserve to make a good living, and some do . . . an
amazingly good living in the case of some funeral home OWNERS!
At a recent national meeting, for instance, a topic of discussion was
changes in federal tax laws. One of the members said, "So what?
That (particular law) doesn't kick-in until over $200,000.00 a year."
To which one of his cronies replied, "So who among us doesn't make $200,000 a year?" Of those who
raised their hands, most were employees rather than employERs. Much as is the
case with pharmacists, funeral directors tend to start at a respectable wage, yet
stagnate shortly thereafter. Considering the hours they must work, most earn a decent
living but nothing outlandish so long as they work for others.
New Help on Holding Costs Down
Starting with the late Jessica Mitford's The American Way of Death, there have been several notable attempts to alert the public to the excesses of the death merchants in the funeral industry. This is merely another. Since Ms. Mitford's opus, however, there have been several new developments that can help the average family preserve resources for the survivors, rather than lining the undertakers' (and the undertakers' share-holders') pockets. Here are a few of the more noteworthy.
Co-op Funeral Homes
This is exactly what it sounds like; a community or group of concerned individuals banding together to set up their own funeral home. They determine salaries of the staff and costs of each product and service. As of this writing there are several out there functioning well, and at considerably more-realistic prices than their 'for-profit' counterparts. There is even funding available for communities wishing to establish one of their own. Contact us for details, phone numbers and addresses.
Discount Funeral Homes
There are a goodly number of funeral directors, notably in lower-income areas, who are genuinely concerned with escalating funeral costs (roughly 400% of the national inflation rate, annually) and are taking steps to make goods and services more affordable. As you might imagine, they are meeting with stearn opposition from the corporate-owned and greedier independant funeral homes. Some have been forced out of business by the others telling their suppliers "It's either THEM or US." and shutting off their source of caskets and vaults from major suppliers. Here the manufacturers must bear a large part of the responsibility, as well as the public who should be supporting these efforts.
Note: Beware of a company called (of all things!) AFFORDABLE FUNERALS. They are owned by S.C.I. and, from what I've seen of their price list, the only thing especially affordable about them is their name!
Funeral Consultants, Shoppers, and Brokers
This is a new phenomenon which grew out of the florist and catering industries
on the West Coast. For a nominal fee, these specialists will assist you
in arranging a funeral. They can do the 'shopping' portion for you, keep
on top of local prices and customs, and -- perhaps most importantly of
all -- help you steer clear of obvious rip-offs. Some can locate burial
sites below market price, caskets and outer containers at a fraction
of retail price, and generally make your life much easier.
Some are ex-employees of the funeral industry who have developed a
conscience, some are self-taught concerned citizens, and some have
been trained by our program.
Fees vary from FREE, in the case of some ex-ministers and hospice nurses, to
as much as $650 flat rate, with a guarantee they'll save you much more.
Thus far, our consultants are averaging saving their clients $2,000 - $3,000
per funeral, at an average total fee of $350. Granted, much of what
they do you could do yourself with just the information available
on this site, from memorial societies, and in our book, but for those
who would as soon avoid the sales pressure, hassle, and time required
to adequately shop for the goods and services required, they
can be money well spent.
Please be aware that consultants can NOT 'arrange' a funeral per se unless
they happen to be a licensed funeral director. What they CAN do is similar to what
a good employment agency does. Before the agency sends you off on an interview, first they
put you through a 'dress rehearsal' then critique areas in which you were weak. A good consultant
will walk you through each step of the arrangement process, showing you your options at each step
and giving you an idea of what each will cost, so that when you make your arrangement visit you will
know what you want and how to stay within your allotted budget.
If you, or someone you know, would be interested in starting a funeral consulting agency, please contact us for free information on our new program. State laws on such things vary widely due to the funeral industry's brilliant lobbying efforts (in some states, for instance, only a licensed funeral director is allowed to SELL a casket or outer container, though in EVERY STATE YOU CAN BUY ONE FROM WHOMEVER YOU CHOOSE), but this is generally no problem to get around. A recent Federal court decision in Tennessee may soon change restrictive laws in these states.
This could be an excellent job for seniors, single mothers, or anyone else who has a genuine concern for people's welfare. It is NOT a get-rich-quick scheme, so no wild-eyed MLM-types need apply. We guard our sources carefully and, at the first sign of mismanagement or mistreatment of clients, will withdraw our support. It isn't particularly fun, since you must deal with people at their most-bereft, but can be satisfying AND rewarding on several levels.
Start-up for a business of this nature can be as little as a few hundred
dollars, depending on your situation. We currently have a
Funeral Consultant's Start-up Package that will take you through the set-up of such a
business from researching your market to conducting your first consult. The package is
laid out HERE, with a brief explaination of what all is included.
For more information, E-Mail us with your name and a brief statement of your experience and expectations.
Discount or Direct Casket Sales
As mentioned earlier, the casket alone can account for nearly half a funeral's cost. Some independant funeral directors and non-funeral director entrapreneurs have opened casket stores which provide the same quality products at far more-reasonable prices. This is the European approach, if you will. In some countries in Europe you can buy a casket in department stores, just as you would a lawnmower or clothing. They are meeting with mixed success, largely due to funeral homes putting out misinformation on their products. For the moment most of these are strictly local affairs, catering to largely urban populations, but through the F.H.P. we are attempting to unite them to provide coast-to-coast and even Canadian sources for everyone.
Attached to this site we have put together a catalog of what we consider the best caskets, urns, and (coming soon!) outer containers available through these independant manufacturers and sales outlets. While we do not sell caskets ourselves, you can select a model and call, fax, write, e-mail, or phone us with your selection and we can put you in touch with a provider in your area. Again citing a recent example, a lady in Los Angeles called for a price comparrison on a popular up-scale casket her funeral home had priced at over $6,000.00, and we had her one delivered inside of four hours -- from the SAME warehouse the funeral home would have gotten it! -- for $650. Some rural areas may incur an additional shipping fee, but the total cost should be much less than the 400%+ you'd pay from a funeral home. To visit our online catalog, CLICK HERE.
Should you be interested in opening a 'casket store' anywhere in the U.S., get in touch. If you are sincere,
we'll be happy to provide the suppliers. Be forewarned, however, that a
major draw-back to this from the manufacturers' standpoint is the same
problem faced by discount funeral homes; pressure from the other funeral
homes to halt sales to the general public other than through them.
They have been known to boycott manufactuers who sell direct or
through discount outlets. Luckily we have several who sell direct
to the public already, as well as some great foreign-shore
companies who couldn't care less who buys from them.
A workable stock of caskets could cost you $2,500-$25,000 to
start, and the more outlets that open the greater the chance
of success through cooperateive buying and advertising and the
lower shipping costs.
Order Book ~ E-mail us your questions/comments
Home Page ~ About FHP ~ First Step ~ Funeral Homes
~ Casket Smarts
Cemetery Shopping ~ Monuments
~ Funeral Brokers, etc ~ Suggested Links